As proven by the $760 million and counting theatrical run of “The Batman,” DC blockbusters have been Warner Bros.’ crown jewel, so it’s little surprise that comic book movies made up a major portion of the studio’s CinemaCon showcase, which is its first public presentation since the completion of the Warner Bros. Discovery merger.
All of Warner’s upcoming DC films were showcased in a presentation hosted by Aisha Tyler, including a surprise appearance by Dwayne Johnson to present his one-two summer punch of “Black Adam” and “DC League of Super Pets” and give shoutouts to several of the top theater execs in attendance.
James Wan appeared to discuss next year’s “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” and the studio’s holiday offering, “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” was also featured with a new trailer and a special appearance from Zachary Levi and the film’s cast, including Helen Mirren as the villain Hespera, leader of the daughters of Atlas.
And as fans and industry insiders have expected, a sequel to “The Batman” was announced with director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson returning. That wasn’t the only bit of Batman in the presentation, as a work-in-progress trailer for “The Flash” was revealed with Michael Keaton returning as Bruce Wayne for the first time in 30 years.
But it wasn’t all capes. In fact, Warner gave a significant portion of its presentation to “Moulin Rouge” director Baz Luhrmann and actor Austin Butler to present their new film “Elvis,” featuring Butler in his first major leading role as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, whom Luhrmann described in his passionate description of his film as “never a colonel, never a Tom, and never even a Parker.”
“We got this idea to tell the story of Elvis Presley through the eyes of Tom Parker, who is played by this young newcomer…I think I gave him his first start…Tom Hanks,” Luhrmann joked. “He was so shy! I really had to get him to come out of his shell.”
Alongside films like “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” “Elvis” is one of the summer titles theaters are banking on to bring older audiences back to theaters after Oscar offerings like “King Richard” and “West Side Story” struggled amidst the winter COVID-19 Omicron variant surge. But Luhrmann also promised that Elvis’ hit songs will be presented with a fresh new style to introduce them to a new generation, showing off a trailer that remixed “Hound Dog” with a hip-hop beat while nodding to the fact that Elvis’ style came from Black music in an era of Jim Crow laws.
And while Luhrmann praised Matt Reeves for his work on “The Batman,” calling it a “freakin’ amazing movie,” he said that “Man cannot live on Batman alone!”
“We’re in this together to get audiences back in theaters, because the human condition demands it,” Luhrmann said. “If there is anything in my power to help bring people in to see this movie, I will do it.”
Warner also showed in-progress footage of the Christmas 2023 film “Wonka,” showing Timothee Chalamet and Keegan Michael-Key singing and dancing over their love for chocolate as Willy Wonka introduces his special brand of candy to the world for the first time.
On the nail-biting side, Olivia Wilde was also on hand to present her thriller “Don’t Worry Darling,” which she co-stars in with Harry Styles in a tale about a 1950s housewife who learns a disturbing truth about the idyllic community she lives in, forcing her to decide whether she is willing to challenge an abusive power structure that is designed for her benefit. “Annabelle” creator Gary Dauberman also appeared to promote his next horror film: an adaptation of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot”
Though Warner Bros. released all of its 2021 movies simultaneously on HBO Max, the studio contributed 21 films to theaters last year, tied with Sony for the most released by any studio, including the first movie since the pandemic began to gross over $100 million domestically with “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
While the studio was fourth on the 2021 domestic charts with $655 million grossed and a 14% market share, “The Batman” busted a two-month box office slump with a $134 million opening weekend — second only to “No Way Home” in the pandemic era — and became just the fifth film since theaters reopened to gross over $750 million worldwide.